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Henry G. Leathers House

Contributor: 
Johannes Allert
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The H. G. Leathers House, St. Francis, Minnesota, July 1990. Photographer unknown. Used with the permission of Anoka County Historical Society (Object ID# 3000.3.31).

The H. G. Leathers House, St. Francis, Minnesota, July 1990. Photographer unknown. Used with the permission of Anoka County Historical Society (Object ID# 3000.3.31).

The house built in the 1880s by Henry G. Leathers on a site near the Rum River is a prime example of late-Victorian architecture in Anoka County. Used as both a dry goods store and a family home, the building is dually significant—first for its level of preservation and second for its association with a family that contributed to the commercial, social, and religious history of the town of St. Francis for three generations.

Henry G. Leathers was born on December 11, 1858, in Oak Grove Township, and opened a dry goods store there in 1882. He sold everything from soup to blasting powder, and even peddled whiskey from a barrel in the basement. He traded firewood in exchange for his merchandise and extended credit to his neighbors until they could harvest and sell their crops. On September 19, 1888, he married Rose Barden.

Over the next four decades, Henry served the community in numerous roles: as a registered pharmacist, a school board member, the president of the Commercial Club, a charter member of the Modern Woodmen and Workmen’s (MWA) Lodge, the president of the St. Francis Starch Company, and the manager of the Creamery and Canning Company. The construction of St. Francis’ Methodist Church was due, in large part, to his and his family’s efforts.

Beginning in 1904, Henry served as the town’s postmaster. He became the community’s first car dealer in 1918, selling both Fords and gasoline from an open tank in the front yard of his home.

Henry and Rose had two children, Robert and Blanche, who remained in the St. Francis community after becoming adults. After Henry died, in 1932, Robert took over from his father as postmaster and remained in that position until 1969.

The rear of the house was the first section constructed in about 1883 and consists of a two-story rectangular building with an attached one story addition. Originally, this served as both a residence for the family as well as a store where they conducted their business.

In 1890, the family moved the structure closer to the Rum River and added a section to its front west side. This front façade, made up of three bays and a two-and-a-half-story conical tower, is flanked by gabled two-and-a-half-story bays. Each of the front gables features elaborate fretwork, and a colonnaded veranda adds a classical element. Pilaster strips appear at each corner of the house. The interior contains a front entrance, two parlors, and a dining room on the first floor, as well as two bedrooms, a bath, and a formal landing make up the second floor. As of 2019, the home’s turn-of-the-century woodwork and hardware remain intact.

Editor’s note: This article contains public-domain text adapted from a National Register of Historic Places nomination form.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
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Anoka County Minnesota. Dallas: Taylor Publishing, 1982.

Spaeth, Lynne VanBrocklin. “H. G. Leathers House.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form, 1979. State Historic Preservation Office, St. Paul.
https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/ca61b48a-5e64-4acd-974e-a7c5e391686a

Related Images

The H. G. Leathers House, St. Francis, Minnesota, July 1990. Photographer unknown. Used with the permission of Anoka County Historical Society (Object ID# 3000.3.31).
The H. G. Leathers House, St. Francis, Minnesota, July 1990. Photographer unknown. Used with the permission of Anoka County Historical Society (Object ID# 3000.3.31).
Henry G. Leathers, ca. 1900s. Photograph by Nelson Photographic Studio of Anoka. Used with the permission of Anoka County Historical Society (Object ID# P2075.14.09).
Henry G. Leathers, ca. 1900s. Photograph by Nelson Photographic Studio of Anoka. Used with the permission of Anoka County Historical Society (Object ID# P2075.14.09).

Turning Point

In 1890, the Leathers family moves the house to a new site and adds an elaborately decorated section to its front west side.

Chronology

1858

Henry G. Leathers is born in Oak Grove Township (Anoka County).

ca. 1883

Henry begins building a house in St. Francis.

1888

Henry marries Rose Barden

1890

The family moves the house to a site closer to the Rum River and adds a new section to its front west side.

1904

Henry becomes the postmaster of St. Francis.

1918

Henry becomes the first car dealer in St. Francis when he starts selling Ford automobiles.

1932

Henry dies; his son Robert takes over his father’s duties as postmaster.

1977

The Leathers family business stops operating.

1979

The house is added to the National Register of Historic Places.